The Magic Mouse

So last night I decided to pick up Apple’s new Bluetooth Magic Mouse, mainly because the promise of a MultiTouch mouse is very nearly the “ultimate mouse” that I’ve been looking for. I’ve grown to quite like the MultiTouch trackpad on the MacBook Pro, but still missed the tactile motion-to-movement of a mouse. Giving up the MultiTouch gesture aspects of the trackpad for an ordinary mouse was a bit like stepping backward, though.

My first impression of the mouse was, “Hmm”. It was definitely Apple quality; a slab of aluminium coupled with a slab of either very rigid polymer or glass on the top; nice heft; comfortable and slim profile in the hand; the click action feels solid yet elegant; tracking is impeccable—but the gestures were lacking! For a mouse that has theoretically limitless possibility, Apple decided to ship a woefully limited set of built-in gestures. As with the Mighty Mouse, you have left and right clicking depending upon where your finger is, then a simple left and right two-finger swipe for browser navigation. The horrible Mighty “nipple” is replaced by a single-finger swipe for scrolling around, which is a great improvement. Mainly in the feel of the action itself. With the “momentum” feature turned on, scrolling is a lot more like grabbing the scroll-bar than a scroll-wheel, which has a very linear feel to it. You can smash through a huge document in a single swipe once you get used to it. But, that’s about it!

So I was at first fairly disappointed, and then I found BetterTouchTool, a free application that lets you program MultiTouch devices—and suddenly the original excitement of what this mouse could be capable of were resurrected. With BetterTouchTool, I can enable tap clicking just as with the touchpad (and that is very nice in a mouse, though as with the touchpad, you’ll still need to perform a mechanical click to drag items), and define multi-finger taps for different clicks, including a middle-click which was oddly missing from Apple’s default offerings. Further, proper gestures can be defined. A three-finger swipe downward can activate Expose; a two-finger pinch action can sleep the display (very nice on a laptop); and keyboard keys can be added into the mix to create hundreds of possibilities. Anyone used to a programmable mouse will feel at home with the ability to assign custom gestures to individual applications, as well as assigning gestures to keystroke combinations (how about a three-finger click for Edit Scrivenings and a two-finger pinch out for Full Screen?) and dozens of events from simple double-clicks, to window maximisation, a very handy “show hidden files in Finder action”, to a full system sleep.

Without doubt this is a review for both BetterTouchTool as well as the Magic Mouse. By itself, the mouse is not worth the hefty cost, but with the third-party software the mouse is easily vaulted into the very best you can get for your Mac. I didn’t think I’d ever find anything that would compare to the Logitech MX Revolution’s flywheel, but I think this just might be the trick that defeats that mechanical solution to rapid scrolling. I am rapidly becoming a huge fan of the scroll solution Apple has come up with. It has a delicate balance between precision and efficiency.

One last thing: the batteries. Apple decided to go with good old standard AA batteries. This is a very welcome change from the industry standard these days for cordless mice, where a lithium ion battery is employed. This means no bulky re-charger adding cords to the desk and defeating the point of a cordless mouse, and it also means that the life of the mouse is not limited by the life of a 500-cycle battery. Sure, you have to keep feeding it AAs, and it remains to be seen how intelligently it uses them, but I’ll take that over the problems of lithium ion hardwired to a device.

My recommendation: If you are looking for a programmable mouse that has an elegant tactile feel and good tracking without all of the bother of a dozen buttons hanging off of it, get this mouse and then promptly download BetterTouchTool. You’ll love it.

At least with standard AA, you may use rechargeables, and thus save both the cost of new ones and tossing old ones into landfills. I have been hesitant about buying a wireless mouse. I used a prior generation and found that (a) batteries wore out in hours, not days, and (b) the Bluetooth connection often failed. So I’m still using a wired mouse, but would sure like to get that USB slot back.


I have been using the mighty mouse for about 18 months. This is my ONLY mouse. 8 hours a day, minimum 5 days a week. Then weekends and evening. I bought 1 36 pack of AA batteries after the supplied batteries wore out (about 3 months). The keyboard takes 3 them mouse 2. I still have more than half the batteries and I con only remember 4 changes (including when I bought the pack). Never drops the BT connection.

Which is my way of saying, buy the apple stuff and you should be as happy as … hmm … as happy as you can be.


I second that. I bought a mighty mouse 4 months ago, 'cos I’m worried about the mouse button on the MBA. I’ve just had to buy my first new set of batteries, even after forgetting to turn it off overnight several times. And the bluetooth has never dropped.
I did have a little BT mouse that I bought here … crappy construction and requiring a USB dongle, but it worked too, when it wasn’t falling apart. The dongle was a pain, though!
A friend has just bought a 15" MBP. With my marked tremor, I find the no-button trackpad difficult to use. Perhaps that’s just a matter of getting accustomed, but it’s enough to make me hold off from getting a Magic Mouse.
I’m also using AirMouse on my iPod Touch, particularly to control keynote during a lecture. That’s pretty nifty, and since I’ve already got the touch, cheaper than buying a Magic Mouse. Set up a temporary VPN linking the MBA and the Touch and away we go!

Amber — thanks for the double review. Potentially very useful.

Druid — my experience with the Mighty Mouse is slightly different from Jaysen’s. BT doesn’t drop out, but I do use more batteries, even in one-battery mode. However, the biggest bugbear with this device is nipple fatigue (or whatever the little not-fit-for-purpose protuberance on the top is called) — well documented across the Internet. So a switch to the Magic Mouse may be imminent (which is a reason Amber’s review is useful to me).



Have you tried the “paper” trick?

  1. Turn off mouse
  2. Get CLEAN sheet of paper
  3. Lay paper on hard, flat surface (think a post it free portion of a desk or a white board)
  4. Roll nipple (technically a track ball) in straight lines on paper. Use a little pressure but not a ton.

What you are likely to see are BLACK line on the paper. This is the gunk coming off the ball and sensor. When you see no more black like go in a different direction. Once you have al the directions go in spirals.

I do this about once a month now as preventative maintenance. No more problems.

Thanks Jaysen.
A lot better.

This thread talks about the eneloop rechargeable batteries for the Magic Mouse (search on “eneloop”): … d30oct2009

Circumstances beyond my control have brought a Magic Mouse and the new large object it talks to into my house. I would warn anyone thinking about buying the mouse to be sure and try it before purchasing it. It is beautifully designed and works well except . . . if you have large hands it’s virtually impossible to use—your fingertips fall off the front making it rather hard to swipe anything. So, it’s back to the MX Revolution for me.


P.S. All hail daily backups.

Was coffee, water, tea, or liquor involved? If so, all hail the power of planned catastrophe!

The horizontal swipes are possibly the worst gestures available. There isn’t a lot of surface area, and it is difficult to do them without moving the mouse. I suppose I understand why, out of all the possibilities available, Apple chose a two-finger horizontal swipe for browser navigation, but I far prefer vertical swipes. The length of the mouse is then used for friction and tends to hold position—or at the least the heel of the palm can be used.

The gestures I’ve been preferring, after more use, are tap and click based. A three-finger or four-finger click; a left finger right finger tip-tap: these are more reliable for me, and probably less stressful on the anatomy of the hand.


Well, all of the above actually, but what did it in was 6 years of daily use (developer-style pounding a good deal of the time). You know the handwriting’s on the wall (or check :frowning: ) when there’s no USB-, Firewire-bus power, or video and the power light is flashing in a way you’ve never, ever seen before.


I’m a Magic Mouse convert. Love it. Just downloaded the Better Touch Tool to try it out tomorrow (thanks for the tip AmberV!).

A few points to note:
• AmberV - you can drag without a mechanical click using the touchpad. Do a double tap without removing your finger on the second tap. It acts the same as a mechanical click and drag.
• Batteries work very well with the Magic Mouse, and last a very long time. I never turn of my mouse or keyboard and the Magic Mouse is far more economical with batteries than the Mighty Mouse was. In 3 (4?) months since I bought them, I haven’t yet changed the batteries in keyboard or mouse!
• I have learnt to use my mouse differently. I hold it more gently, from the sides, and only gently touch it as I swipe. This makes horizontal swipes much easier and has the simultaneous benefit of less tension in my mouse hand. This, combined with moving the mouse next to my keyboard (the reason for purchasing the slimline keyboard) has completely eliminated a constant pain from my shoulder.

Having said all that, I often go to use shortcuts that work on the touchpad on my mouse, only to discover (anew) that they only work on the touchpad. Hence my gratitude for the BTT tip.

You are right, I forgot that option existed for I turned it on when I first got the MBP and decided I didn’t quite like the action it provided, so turned it back off and haven’t used it since. There is a delay inserted into the release which kept messing me up, and for some reason my brain never synchronised with the delay Apple inserted. Mechanical click and drag is immediate and seems to work better for me, even though it requires a little more physical work.

Incidentally, the latest release of BTT (.497) introduces double-tap to drag. I’m going to try it out and see if I like it any better than Apple’s implementation.

I just found another really neat thing in BTT. Near the version printout at the bottom is a “Show live view” button. Click that and you’ll see a live preview of the gesture/ignore/tap zones, finger placement, vector line between them, and so on. It is a fascinating glimpse at the underlying technology. It even recognises how much of the finger pad is in contact with the surface.

Definitely. I still have a standard ergonomic large mouse at the office, and the differences are quite striking. My hand is more fatigued at the end of the day with a large mouse because it must be gripped to be used. The Magic Mouse is so light and low profile that it’s more like an extension of the open palm. It goes against everything ergonomics have been saying for a decade or more now, yet it seems to work. If you try to use it like a regular mouse, it probably will become uncomfortable, but if you learn the light touch, it just disappears! Also, learning that the gestures can be invoked with only the slightest movement helps a lot too. Two-finger left/right for browser history, for example, can be invoked with an almost twitch-like movement—barely in physical movement of the fingers at all. As I posted above, initially I did not like this gesture, but it’s growing on me.